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An Analysis Of The Poem Night Funeral In Harlem

Night Funeral in Harlem is a poem written by an African American poet and creative writer, Langston Hughes. In this poem, Hughes writes about the funeral of a poor man in society. According to a keen analysis of the poem, the deceased lacked primary insurance coverage, which should have facilitated his funeral (Hughes 5). Therefore, there was no fund provided for the running of the funeral, and many expected the funeral to be conducted in an unorganized manner. However, contrary to this happened. Although the burial was basic, it was good, and this was due to the love and affection shown by the people of his community. The people contributed in all aspects to make the funeral grand.

The central theme, as expressed in the poem, is that earthly or materialistic things are not necessary for society, as many people think. The worldly possessions, in this case, do not make us happy to the end, as they are left when someone dies. Instead, people should yearn for love and affection, as they are fundamental societal pillars. The funeral was expected to be conducted poorly due to ignorance of the named values. Love, relationships, and happiness are what keep us happy.

The poet uses different features to create the message of the poem and establish the relationship between the themes. For example, the poet uses repletion, whereby the title, Night in Funeral Harlem, gets repeated throughout the poem. The motivating aspect of this is to demonstrate to the readers and other concerned audiences the importance of the passing of the boy and everything done. As a result, e.g., coming together as a result of the death of the boy.

Also, the poet uses the word insurance to portray some hidden meanings. In this case, coverage refers to one‘s lifespan and represents a loss of life. In modern society, people pay for insurance to protect themselves from everyday occurrences that might require emergency coverage. However, in this case, the young boy spent no guarantee and hence died poor. Through this, the author informs the public that other than the young man being poor, his life ends, and the burial ends without insurance.

Lastly, the poem has a touching and heartfelt tone. Such is expressed in how the friends loved the dead man. Other than the sound, the author also uses language techniques such as the insurance man, explained in the above paragraph. Also, the poet uses rhyming words throughout the poem, although not structured in some occurrences.


A precise analysis of the poem indicates that the boy was an essential person in society during and after his life. Therefore, from the poem, we are urged to cherish small things in life, not necessarily complex ones.


Hughes, Langston. “Night Funeral in Harlem.” from The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright (1994).



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